|(Aug. 19, 2018) -- LBREPORT.com invites our readers to hear (audio below) the words of LB Fire Chief Mike DuRee, spoken at the August 14, 2018 City Council hearing on the city management proposed / Mayor recommended FY19 budget.
Responding to a question from downtown Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce, Fire Chief DuRee matter-of-factly explained the firefighting effects of increased downtown density and Mayor/Council budgets that to date haven't restored Fire Engine 101.
Engine 101 is a second fire engine (in addition to Engine 1) that was prudently maintained at downtown Station 1 (Magnolia Ave. between Ocean Blvd./Broadway) mindful of the added challenges of downtown high-rise density. Former Mayor Foster recommended, and a Council that included Robert Garcia approved, budgets that erased Engine 101. They did this during basically the same period as the Council invited increased density with a developer-desired "Downtown Plan" that enabled the highest high rises in the history of Long Beach.
City management and Mayor Garcia have now offered LB's Council (now with downtown reps Gonzalez and Pearce) a FY19 budget that again doesn't restore Engine 101. At the August 14 FY19 budget hearing, Councilwoman Pearce asked Chief DuRee about increased downtown density and high rises and Chief DuRee responded. The exchange speaks for itself. To hear it, click here.
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Under LBFD's prescribed order of resource restorations, Engine 101 can be restored only after restoring Engine 17 (Stearns Park.) The importance of Engine 17 became apparent in late January 2014 when a multi-unit one-story residential property burned to near destruction literally across the street from Fire Station 17, which didn't have Engine 17 to quickly douse the flames (that doubled in size every minute until a further engine arrived.)
City management's FY19 budget doesn't propose to restore Engine 17. Mayor Garcia has recommended restoring Engine 17 (and management is currently working to figure out way(s) to do this.) Councilman Supernaw has consistently urged restoring Engine 17 since his 2015 election. A Council majority will have the last word. City management said on Aug. 14 that restoring one fire engine costs $2.8 million.
Not one Councilmember asked an overdue threshold question: why has Long Beach become a "can't-do" city, that now fails to provide its taxpayers with fire and police levels that it previously provided? Long Beach residents previously had Engine 17 and Engine 101 and nearly 200 police officers without paying the highest sales tax rate among CA cities (tied with only a few others.) City Hall now collects over $50+ million annually from Measure A sales tax hike on top of millions more from higher projected oil revenue.
We believe the answer requires deep seated reforms that LB's incumbents, protected by LB's now-toadying Firefighters Ass'n. leadership, have shown themselves unwilling to treat seriously. That's what elections are for, and the next opportunity comes in a costly November 2018 citywide special election forced on taxpayers to attempt a charter change that would let incumbents seek third terms without facing LB's current two-term-limit write-in requirement. (Of course the LB Firefighters Ass'n supports this; only the most naive will fail to grasp how this anti-reform Charter change could deter or defeat reform-minded challengers.)
But politics and fiscal issues shouldn't fog the clear moral issue here. In our opinion, continuing to shrug restoring Engine 101 differs little from assuring passengers they're safe aboard an unsinkable ship while knowing it lacks sufficient lifeboats.
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